As we said last week, don’t be fooled by some of the new legislation that is supposed to crack down on condo crime. A bad board member or manager stealing some money from the operating account of a condominium is terrible and they deserve to be arrested and incarcerated. However, it is small potatoes to some of the real crime that the Florida Legislature allows to fester in our condominium associations. As usual however, this has gone ignored for another legislative session. Let me explain:
Far and away —- the biggest crook in all of this is The Florida Legislature itself. As all of you know, each condominium unit owner pays $4.00 per unit per year to the DBPR for education, training, investigators and more. Instead of the money staying at the DBPR and being used on the condo owners who are paying the bill to solve the very problems the Grand Jury Report addresses, only a percentage of your money goes to the DBPR and the Florida Legislature takes away millions of dollars each year, sweeps it into the general fund and uses it for other people, other things. THAT IS A CRIME! Taking money specifically from condo owners and using it on other people for other things is stealing from the condo owners. Is it not? And it adds up to millions of dollars every year stolen from all of you. It certainly adds up to much more than directors and managers are stealing from community associations. But they try to deflect your attention away from what they’re doing. Have you concentrate on the left hand while they rob you with the right. Where’s the bill that fixes that crime?
Is there one bill that targets developers that refuse to turn over control of associations timely? A board member refuses to turn over some condo records timely and The Florida Legislature demands justice and a prison sentence for the volunteer board member. Developers refuse to turn over control of entire community associations and the penalty is………..NOTHING. What about condo developers who fix the condominium’s common elements with your money, even though the condominium is still under a developer warranty? Is that not a developer stealing your money? How about developers who deliberately fail to fund a reserve account while the developer is in charge, leaves the condo with massive repairs to make, no money to make them with and is basically now judgment proof because the corporation he opened already sold out the units? Is that not a crime? When a developer prints exquisite advertising brochures showing what the community will look like, suckers you in, and then fails to build as promised, is that not a crime? But can anyone tell me one time a developer has been prosecuted for condo crime in Florida? I know of none. Let’s see a prosecutor’s office go after one developer for ripping off the buyers he sold to. Let’s see one new law that requires a developer to at least post a bond that would guarantee owners have some money to recover if the developer skips out of town and doesn’t build as promised or turns over a property needing a complete makeover.
Instead, you have a Florida Legislature that bends over backwards to protect developers. Remember when a few years ago the 5th District Court of Appeals said HOA developers must give HOAs a developer warranty for the community? Literally, in an instant, the Florida Legislature convened and passed a statute that said developers do not have to give HOAs a warranty because “it would create uncertainty in Florida’s fragile real estate market.” You would think not providing HOAs a warranty would create uncertainty in the market, but not here in developer friendly/unit owner unfriendly Florida.
You want more evidence of theft on a large scale that goes unaddressed each year by The Florida Legislature? What about a bank purposely taking several years to foreclose on a condominium unit? During that time, who is preserving the bank’s collateral? Who is paying to make sure that the unit doesn’t get flooded, that the unit has a roof over it, that the unit is not accumulating mold and that the common elements remain intact? The poor sucker condo owner is. Instead of passing laws that make the bank pay assessments each month during their foreclosure and in effect pay to preserve their own collateral, that financial burden is put on all of you. The Florida Legislature steals from you to give to the banks. It’s Robin Hood in reverse.
If The Florida Legislature wants to really make a dent in condo crime, how about they start by going after developers, going after banks and by refusing to continue to pick your pockets and steal your $4.00?
I’m actually writing this blog in my hotel room in Tallahassee. I’m up here trying to do whatever I can to help pass legislation that truly helps condo owners, instead of just providing all of you smoke and mirrors. In any event, I issue a challenge to The Florida Legislature to prove me wrong this legislative session. Pass a law that requires the $4.00 that each owner pays to the DBPR to stay at the DBPR. Pass a law that requires banks to pay more to condo associations when they foreclose on a unit and requires a bank to pay assessments during their foreclosure. Pass any law that shows us that you care about how developers routinely take advantage of our condo and HOA owners throughout the state. Until you pass any of these laws, don’t hold press conferences telling the public about how you’re tough on condo crime. You’re not. You’re only tough on the board member volunteers, but cozy up to the developers and the banks. While I’m here, I would be happy to meet with any Legislator who truly has the heart to help and won’t cow tow to the banks and developers. Surprise me and give me a call or shoot me an e-mail. Next Monday well publish who was there to help.